Hay Festival 2024: Everything To See This Year

By Olivia Emily

3 weeks ago

Hay-on-Wye’s annual festival is back. But who will be headlining this year? Here's our comprehensive guide to the action for 2024...


Book lovers, the time is near: the free-to-visit Hay Festival will be returning to its dedicated site near Hay-on-Wye this spring – and there’s plenty to get excited about. Championing storytelling in all of its forms as well as big thinking and little threads of curiosity, here’s our comprehensive Hay Festival guide for 2024.

Hay Festival Guide 2024

Hay Festival 2016

What Is The Hay Festival?

Hay Festival is an annual literary festival that takes place in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. It is one of the UK’s largest festivals of its kind, and certainly hailed by many as the best. With a primary focus on literature, the festival invites authors to launch their new fiction and non-fiction titles and host talks, debates and signings. Now preparing for its 38th edition in spring 2024, Hay Festival has expanded since its first edition in 1988 to also include music, comedy and entertainment stretching long into the night, with a whole host of performances and pop-up activities to keep visitors entertained between sessions.

‘In a year when more voters than ever in history will head to the polls, as at least 64 countries hold their elections, we present a programme to bring people together, respectfully exploring different perspectives and the power of storytelling to unite us,’ says Hay Festival Global CEO, Julie Finch. ‘With new venues on our free-to-enter Festival site and diverse new projects throughout the programme, this is a festival for everyone.’

The Hay Festival site

The History Of Hay Festival

The first Hay Festival took place in 1988, founded by Peter Florence along with his parents, Norman and Rhoda, spanning various venues across the town of Hay – which had, by the 1970s, gained the nickname, ‘The Town of Books’. It is said that Peter funded the first festival with his winnings from a poker game. By 2005, Hay Festival had moved to a dedicated site just south of the town, where it still takes place every year.

Hay Festival 2016

© Mary Perez

Who Will Be At The Hay Festival In 2024?

Key headliners at Hay Festival 2024 include:

Authors:

  • David Nicholls
  • Jacqueline Wilson
  • Elif Shafak
  • Marian Keyes
  • Michael Morpurgo
  • Amor Towles
  • Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
  • Colm Tóibín
  • Cressida Cowell
  • David Mitchell
  • Jeff Kinney
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Holly Jackson
  • Alex Wharton
  • Sunjeev Sahota
  • Manon Steffan Ros
  • Oliver Jeffers
Reader in the sun on the grass

Sam Hardwick

Poets

  • Hanan Issa
  • Simon Armitage
  • Jackie Kay
  • Lemn Sissay
  • Hollie McNish
  • Michael Rosen
  • Joseph Coelho

Historians:

  • Alice Roberts
  • Greg Jenner
  • Tom Holland

Journalists: 

  • James O’Brien
  • Caitlin Moran
  • Elizabeth Day
  • Gary Lineker

Politicians: 

  • Theresa May
  • Andy Burnham
  • Julia Gillard
  • Rory Stewart
Hay Festival

Benedict Cumberbatch spoke at Hay Festival 2018. © Sam Hardwick

Musicians:

  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Charlotte Church
  • Geri Halliwell-Horner
  • James Blunt
  • Jools Holland
  • Robert Macfarlane
  • Johnny Flynn

Actors:

  • Dame Judi Dench
  • Miriam Margolyes
  • Stephen Fry
  • Sir Lenny Henry
  • Toby Jones

Comedians:

  • Jon Richardson
  • Nish Kumar
  • Julian Clary
  • Ruby Wax
  • Sara Pascoe

Plus: artist Es Devlin and Nobel Prize-winning activist Maria Ressa – and many more…

Musicians performing on stage at Hay

What’s On In 2024?

More than 600 in-person events will take place over 11 days at Hay Festival 2024. Here’s a taste of what’s to come…

  • Debut Discoveries: Daily events curated to showcase emerging writers alongside established names, including Naomi Alderman, Jeanette Winterson, Andrew McMillan, Fiona Williams and plenty more.
  • South to South: Conversations spotlighting issues and solutions facing the Global South, co-curated by Hay Festival teams in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.
  • Thinkers in Residence: This year, Ruby Wax, Alex Wheatle and Caroline Lucas will be gathering artists and innovators to explore the issues facing the world today and develop new solutions.
  • Lviv BookForum: Ukraine’s largest book festival is back in Wales for Hay 2024, co-curating events throughout the festival to highlight great Ukrainian storytelling.
  • The Nibbies Salon: The Bookseller and Katherine Rundell share insights into the publishing industry.
  • The brand new Climate Fiction Prize will be launched live on stage, while exclusive conversations will celebrate the winners of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize and International Booker Prize, plus the shortlists of the Wales Book of the Year 2024 and Women’s Prizes for Fiction and Non-Fiction.
  • A unique walking event co-curated with the Black British Book Festival, in which attendees are invited to write lines inspired by nature.
Readers enjoy the sun at Hay Festival 2019

© Chris Athanasiou

What’s New For 2024?

New projects at Hay Festival for 2024 include:

  • The Platform for young and new creatives to share their work with Hay Festival audiences
  • The daily News Review offering analysis of the latest news by journalists, commentators and world leaders live on stage
  • The first-ever Hay Festival Sports Day in celebration of the Olympic year
  • Hay Festival Green, prompting innovative solutions to the climate crisis through events and workshops
  • For the first time, a series of Food Demos will bring the flavours off the page for demonstrations throughout the festival

Frequent festival goers will also notice the Dairy Meadows site has had a redesign for 2024, which comprises eight stages as the Bookshop, a Wild Garden, a Make & Take Tent, plus a host of exhibitors and market stalls and cafés and restaurants.

Also new for 2024 is the dedicated Family Garden where young readers can kick-start their creative journeys.

hay-festival

When?

23 May–2 June 2024

Where?

Most of the Hay Festival takes place at the dedicated festival site, Dairy Meadows located between Hereford and Brecon, just off the A438 (postcode HR3 5PJ) – just a 10 minute walk from the centre of Hay. Some events also take place in and around Hay-on-Wye, especially at St Mary’s Church where there will be performances all week, in collaboration with the likes of Hay Castle, Hay Writers’ Circle, Hay Community Choir, Hay Shantymen, Hay Music, Rural Media and Hereford College of Arts.

If you can’t make it in person, a selection of sessions will be streamed live.

Is Hay Festival Free Entry?

The main Hay Festival site at Dairy Meadows is free to enter, and there are plenty of activities and free performances to keep you entertained.

How To Get Tickets

Tickets are not required to attend Hay Festival, however talks, debates and signings take place on specific stages, and you’ll need to buy a ticket to attend those. If you’re keen, simply visit hayfestival.com, pick the event that piques your interest, and purchase your ticket.